Wine Blogging Weds News: A “Sparkling” Round Up & “Singles Night” Announced

Tim Elliott of Winecast hosted last month’s Wine Blogging Wednesday #74 and posted his round-up earlier this week. In it, he notes that 19 bloggers participated tasting 39 wines in 8 countries. The least expensive wine was Albero’s Brut Cava ($8 at Trader Joes and at that price a favorite for me too that I almost tasted for this prompt!) and the most expensive sparkler was $22.50 – 8th Generation “Confidence” 2010. So go check it out!

Wine Blogging Wednesday #75 host Joe Roberts aka 1 Wine Dude and Playboy’s new wine dude suggests we have a “Singles Night”: “One of the most special aspects of wine is that I can connect you with a particular time (a vintage) and a particular place on earth (a vineyard). Few other foodstuffs can offer such magic.”

If you want to join us, here’s how to play according to Joe’s prompt on 1 Wine Dude:

  • Your mission is to procure a wine produced from grapes grown in a single vineyard, and tell the world about it on March 21st.
  • You can pick any wine style, made from any grape(s), hailing from any region of the world – go nuts, go obscure, go fun and wow us all with your smarties.
  • The only catch is that the wine’s grapes should come from a single vineyard. And look, we’re not nazis on this… so if you come close and get a wine made from two or three vineyard parcels, we’ll let it slide – the point is to get as close to a wine coming from one single plot of land as you can, to emphasize how what’s special about that place on Earth gets transmitted to you through that wine (yes… we’re talking terroirhere, people).On March 21st, leave a comment on 1WineDude.comor on the Wine Blogging Wednesday website, or on Facebook  or on  twitter using the hashtag #WBW75

As for me, right now I’m inclined to go local and do a single vineyard that’s in Ventura County. I’ve got a bottle of Ojai Vineyard’s Roll Ranch Syrah and I want to see if I can make a road trip up the hill to the vineyard for some spring photos. We haven’t had much rain this year around here but I am sure it will be beautiful.

In the meantime, this March I’m going to be discovering more about Lake County wines including the up and coming and very consciously “green” Shannon Ridge (speaking of which, they have a number of single vineyard varietals that might be fun for WBW #75!)

Then in April, I’ll be writing about Santa Barbara’s Zaca Mesa and wines you might to pair with your Easter dinner. I might even find time to get up there myself–it’s only about an hour drive from where I live.

So Happy Wine Wednesday! What will you be drinking tonight? We’re having one of my favorite dinners –seared tuna on a bed of fresh greens –which I love with silky Washington Merlot.

For tonight I have a 2008 Merlot from Buried Cane (part of Middleton Family Wines) which I found on sale for $3.50. The name refers to the Washington State wine country practice to protect grape vines from damaging cold by covering the low-growing vine canes with a mound of soil. “These buried canes can be unearthed after winter freezes pass, assuring a grape harvest in the following season,” they say. “The winery name Buried Cane is a tip-of-the-hat to our unique winegrowing home.”

This 90% merlot and 10% syrah blend is considered a value wine that usually retails for around $15; at $3.50 it’s a steal and I’m going back for more.  The wine is sealed with a easy opening screw cap and an easy mid-week wine alcohol % of 13.3. It has a nice rosy red color with a faint tinge of coral,  cherry and plum on the nose and palate plus some vanilla and cigar box. It’s mild with a nice finish and a hint of caramel.

PS WE Love You (and Concannon too!)

Last year I had such a great time at PS I Love You’s Dark and Delicious event held at the Rosenblum’s Rock Wall Winery in Alameda tasting an amazing collection of Petite Sirahs paired with delectable bites from prestigious restaurants from throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. A few wineries, like Twisted Oak, also shared verticals of their Petite Sirahs. It’s always fun and insightful to taste through the years of a particular varietal.

Of course that’s me with the purple teeth in this picture from last year’s event with my new friend Jerae-Ione Knutson aka Red Wine Girl and Thea Dwelle of the blog Luscious Lushes and on Twitter as WineBratSF. Oh, we ALL have purple teeth–that’s Petite Sirah for you!

Since this year I’m missing out on all the fun, fine wine, and tasty bites that’s going on tomorrow, I decided in honor of this year’s Dark and Delicious to open three wines from the original King of Petite Sirah, Concannon. The Concannons started farming, growing wine grapes, and making wine in the Livermore valley in 1883. Over 50 years ago, they started growing and making Petite Sirah as a single varietal. While most vintners use Petite Sirah as a blending grape, the Concannons believed in the varietal and bottled it alone to showcase its depth, color and richness. Jim Concannon, who I met at his big birthday shindig last summer (and where I tasted a TON of Petite Sirah! and more notes here), put Petite Sirah on the California map. As a tribute to his father, his son Jim, at the birthday bash, presented his father as well as the celebrants with his new blend, Crimson & Clover, which showcases Petite Sirah blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel.

Annie Any-Day, Bacchus Schmaccus, Marshall Moneybags and I gathered recently to enjoy a steak dinner and to taste the 2009 Crimson & Clover plus the 2007 and 2008 Conservancy Petite Sirahs, all media samples which retail at under $20 and with alcohols from 13.5-13.7%. We served seared steaks, baked potatoes, asparagas and thoroughly enjoyed the wines and the time.

The Crimson & Clover Concannon Conservancy 2009 is sweet to start with dryness on finish, black cherry fruit overtones, tannin skin nose, adequate balance with enough complexity to keep it interesting.  Tasted with cheeses:  good with brie and mushroom cheese, ok with italian truffle cheese, and GREAT with chocolate cheddar.  The color of Draculas blood and reminiscent of gothic churches.  “I want to drink your blood,” we teased.

We agreed that this Crimson & Clover red wine blend would be a great “gateway” red wine for the typical American white wine drinker. Continue reading

WBW #74: Get Your Sparkle On!

After January’s “Spark” Wine Blogging Wednesday #73 comes a “sparkling” wine prompt just in time for Valentine’s Day write-ups. Hosted by Wine Cast aka Tim Elliot, he instructs participants to “pick a sparkling wine from any appellation, made from any grape but make sure it sells for $25 or less a bottle (€20, £16). This should open up a lot of interesting selections, from Crémant de Bourgogne, to Cava, to California & New Mexico sparkling, sparkling Shiraz, to even well chosen grower Champagne. Just post your notes by February 15th and ping me @winecast on Twitter or email me with your link at winecast (at) gmail (dot) com.”

I’ll toast to that! But there is so much more to sparkling wine than a wedding toast or Valentine’s ritual. I’d love to see the day where sparkling wines are as common a beverage with a party as beer!

These days, you can find a wide range of prices for sparkling wines just about anywhere, but it does seem like there’s been an explosion of quality sparklers for under $25–especially if you shop the sales, you can find some super wonderful wines that fit into any budget.

This has been a great few months for me for discovering and tasting sparkling wines: I hosted Champagne Day event in October, attended a big sparkling wine tasting at the Cave in Ventura, then had a big birthday celebration in January with more bubbly! Some of the highlights were beyond the price point of this prompt, however, (Sigh…can you say Bollinger?) so I will save that conversation for another time, AND I want to focus not so much on sparklers to toast with or for special occasions but those to enjoy with a meal.

One of our favorite easy quick satisfying dinners is clams sauteed in white wine, butter, and garlic. We can get fresh clams easily from the Jolly Oyster’s stand at the Ventura State Beach–so we do! But there are a number of frozen clam dinners out there or you can buy tinned clams. These options don’t compare with the fresh one but are still yummy and delightfully simple. We usually serve them over pasta but rice is good too.

I’ve paired this meal with a number of different wines but for Wine Blogging Wednesday #74, Continue reading

Happy Valentine’s Day to YOU!!

A toast to you–my readers and especially my subscribers and followers–on this Valentine’s Day! Without you, I’d just be writing to myself–and it is so much more fun to write for someone else to enjoy!

This Valentine’s Day, I was surprised to receive a gorgeous pink bottle of The Crusher Rose of Pinot Noir,  a box of beautiful heart shaped LeBelge Truffles, and a letter of appreciation from Michael Wangbickler of Balzac Communications. Balzac often sends me wine samples (including The Crusher line-up last spring for a twitter tasting). This past November, Michael invited me to be on a panel with him and The Crusher winemaker to discuss wine and food pairing at the International Wine Bloggers Conference, an activity I really enjoyed. So a big thank you to Balzac Communications and to Mike!

Since I have to go teach writing at the college tonight, I will have to wait until I come home to celebrate Valentine’s Day with my husband and some bubbly. I better make a decision and put it in the fridge!I’ve got a few bottles around for this month’s Wine Blogging Wednesday prompt on value sparklers. Look for that post tomorrow! (I know it won’t help you much for tonight!)

So–What are YOU drinking for Valentine’s Day?

Port Pairs: Vertical Heaven

For Port Day which was January 27, a few friends and I gathered to check out my birthday stash of ports: I bought myself 20, 30 and 40 year tawny ports from Graham’s as well as a NV Krohn tawny (all at 60% off because the liquor store was going out of business!) Plus my friend Ima Zinner (aka Kathy) gifted me with a Smith Woodhouse 1985 vintage port and I had a sample of Croft’s Pink Port.

What a wealth of riches!

Even though Ima Zinner, Annie Any-Day, Bacchus Schmaccus and Marshall Moneybags were helping me celebrate my big birthday AND Port Day, we decided NOT to open everything and focus on three of the four tawny ports and the sample of Croft Pink Port.

Port, as you probably know, refers to a wine based fortified beverage from Portugal. Back in the day, the British added brandy to wine so it would last longer. (There’s a lot more to this story!)

According to Graham Port’s blog, the Instituto do Vinho do Douro e Porto (IVDP), the regulating body for the Douro region, provides these guidelines for identifying a true Port wine:

  • Only fortified wine produced in the Douro Demarcated Region which conforms to the technical characteristics defined by the IVDP is Port
  • The maker must be registered and authorised by the IVDP to produce Port
  • The label must be approved by the IVDP
  • The bottle must bear the IVDP issued and numbered seal of guarantee

Basically, port is a Portuguese wine that’s on the sweet side. Because of this, it is traditionally served alone or with desserts or cheeses at cellar temperature or on ice.

We tried it both ways–one night after dinner and on another night WITH a steak dinner served with a baked potato and a portabella, white stilton with apricot, and arugula salad where I sauteed the portabellas  in butter and 20 year port. Wow–it worked! I also paired the meal with a Parducci Petite Sirah which gave the meal a completely different experience.

Would I pair port again with a steak dinner? I think I just might do anything with that 20 year tawny!

Croft Pink Port $20. This rose port by Croft was supposed to arrive for a Twitter tasting back in August but it didn’t so it’s been hanging around waiting for me to open it! This non-vintage port is designed to be served cold, poured over ice, or used as a cocktail mixer. At 19.5% alcohol, you could drink more cocktails made from this than a vodka or gin. Bottled in clear glass, it shows off it’s deep pink color. When nice and cold, you don’t get much in the nose, but in your mouth, it’s a party of  sweet strawberry and raspberry flavors. Paired with a Belgian chocolate, it really brings out the hazelnut. With a manchego, gorgonzola, or white stilton, it brings out a spiciness in the pink port. It’s not a particularly complex beverage so the saltiness of the cheeses benefits this wine. They suggest serving it with soda and a lemon twist and that sounds good for a warm day (like today!) Or try Croft Pink Port with St Germain, Brut, and berries–sounds dangerously yummy! I’d put that drink in a martini glass…About $20 a bottle.

Krohn Tawny Port $15. For a tawny, it’s dark and muddy in the glass. In the nose, we found alcohol, cigar box, and stewed fruit. On the palate, it’s raisony and pruney with a quick finish. Tasty with the cheeses especially the dried apricot white stilton, but not so good with gorgonzola–too sharp and salty for this mild port. Nice with a sweet, buttery almond cookie but not so good with a almond biscotti. This is a great cooking port; I used almost the whole bottle sauteing portabellas! It’s a decent, enjoyable port.

Graham’s 20 Year Tawny Port $70 This wine is as impressive as its price. In the glass, the 20  is a liquid amber, rich and warm. On the nose, caramel and honey. Reminded us some of Gran Marnier–honeysuckle, honey, pollen, and orange blossom. So lovely with the creamy blue cheese and delightful with the white stilton. We preferred it with milk chocolate and Belgian over dark chocolate since it brought out the caramel notes. It also went well with dried fruits like cranberries and raspberries but NOT with Trader Joe’s “Powerberries!” Nice finish.

Graham’s 40 Year Tawny Port $170.  I did mention it was a special occasion and I was able to buy this wine at 60% off, right? Yes, this wine is almost as old as I am! With a port like this, you only need a little bit–it’s so ethereal it whips your head into the stars! The finish goes on for days–you’re not going to want to brush your teeth that night! In fact,

we thought the Graham’s 40 year port was like being kissed by Elvis!

In the glass, it’s very similar to the 20–a beautiful clear amber. The Graham’s website says it has a green tinge; some of us could see this and others couldn’t. Nose of honey, rich, buttery, butterscotch,  complex, orange blossom. Amazing with pate, and the more intense, salty, aged cheeses like manchego and gouda. Better with dark chocolate than milk or Belgian but that could be taste. Nice with dark chocolate dipped biscotti. We bet it would be insanely good with a chocolate dipped strawberry. We tested it with a fresh strawberry and chocolate truffle and we were happy. Very happy.

And that finish! Wow!

This is a wine to savor, sip, linger over, save.

Since we’re clocking in at close to 1000 words, it’s time to stop! This group of Port lovers will return one day soon to compare the 20, 30 and the 40 AND we have a vintage port tasting on the agenda too!

Bella Victorian Lunch: A Winner at Ventura County’s Valentine n Wine Weekend 2012

Last year my sweetie and I had a great time visiting various wineries in Ventura County on the weekend prior to Valentine’s Day during a “passport” weekend called Valentine n Wine sponsored by the Ventura County Winery Association.

So this year, on that same pre-Valentine’s weekend, when we found ourselves at lunchtime in Camarillo passing by the Bella Victorian Bistro and Tasting Room on Ventura Blvd in Old Town, I remembered how much we  enjoyed our lunch by Chef Gael and our tasting and we decided to stop in. (As a wine blogger, our one flight of 5 one ounce wine pours was complimentary–thanks, Shannon!)

We sat outside on their sunny patio under an umbrella beside the purple petunias. Shannon provided us with excellent service, and our tasty sandwiches, one chicken pesto with chips and one lamb with a side salad, came out quickly. As I wanted photos, she graciously provided us with a wine tasting “tree” with their Santa Rita Hills Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and their Grenache “Romeo” (lead pencil, masculine, rough), followed by a mostly estate grown well-balanced but blue fruit friendly Syrah and a red blend of primarily Napa cabernet sauvignon that was quite interesting with a lots of complexity, juicy cherry and plum yet balanced,  spicy, cigar box, and with a rich mouth feel.

Like the lunch and the location, the wines were all winners. The chicken-pesto pannini paired well with the chardonnay and the darkly colored pinot noir, both rich and flavorful. As much as I liked the cab, today the syrah was my favorite of the five probably because it went so well  the lamb.

If you want to join the fun this Valentine’s Day weekend, Continue reading